1. Newgarden will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing
2. Schmidt receives Nevada driver’s license
3. Pagenaud guests on ‘The Star Wars Show’
4. Sonoma race weekend raises $151,000 for youth groups
5. Still time to join Race to Beat Cancer
6. St. Pete, Toronto race renewal tickets available
1. Newgarden will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing: Josef Newgarden will have a new home in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The coveted 25-year-old American driver, who finished a career-best fourth in this year’s championship, informed Ed Carpenter Racing today that he will not be returning to the team for the 2017 season.
“While it’s disappointing that Josef will not be returning, it’s also not a total surprise after all of the speculation the past few weeks,” team owner Ed Carpenter said. “I wish Josef the best in his future endeavors, but also remain focused on ECR’s continued success. We are positioned well moving into 2017 and I have total confidence that we will continue to deliver the high level of performance we expect as a team.”
Since entering the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012, ECR has scored seven victories with three drivers, including a 1-2 finish in 2015 on the streets of Toronto with Newgarden and Luca Filippi.
Newgarden’s three career wins came after joining forces with ECR in 2015. The 2011 Indy Lights champion moved up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, which merged with ECR in 2015.
Carpenter added that ECR is evaluating all options for next season’s driver lineup. Carpenter will continue to race the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in the six oval events on the 2017 schedule. ECR’s remaining lineup will be announced at a later date.
2. Schmidt receives Nevada driver’s license: Sam Schmidt has experienced memorable victories as an INDYCAR driver and team owner, but achieved one of his greatest personal triumphs Wednesday when he became the first American to receive an autonomous vehicle driver’s license in his home state of Nevada.
Paralyzed from the neck down following an Indy car testing crash in 2000, Schmidt has been working with Arrow Electronics since 2014 on its semi-autonomous motorcar (SAM) project. Schmidt was rewarded for the endeavor when presented his driver’s license at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – the site of his only Verizon IndyCar Series win in 1999 – by Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison.
“This has been an incredible journey,” Schmidt said. “What started as a hope and a dream to go 100 mph (in the SAM car) has taken on a life of its own.
“Getting a driver’s license is not the end of the road, but it is the ultimate example to tell the world you can absolutely accomplish anything if you combine resources with the right group committed to a common cause. It has truly been a life-changing experience for me and my family.”
Following the crash, Schmidt formed a race team in 2001 that has competed in both the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. He also started a foundation, Conquer Paralysis Now, whose mission is to find a cure for paralysis.
Schmidt began collaborating with Arrow – the primary sponsor on James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car the last two years in the Verizon IndyCar Series – on its modified Chevrolet Corvette Z06 two years ago. The SAM car is steered by infrared cameras that sense Schmidt’s head-tilt movements. A sip-and-puff tube enables Schmidt to brake and accelerate the car, while his voice commands tell the car to change gears and turn it on or off.
He first drove the SAM car publicly on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in 2014 and has driven it at several other Verizon IndyCar Series tracks since, most recently less than two weeks ago on the undulating road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. He returned to IMS this May, running as fast as 152 mph, and topped that by driving the car on the bottom half of the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak Hill Climb in June.
“Quickly changing technology, no different than advances in cell phones, have allowed us to compete on road courses, go 152 miles per hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year and complete the Pikes Peak Hill Climb,” said Schmidt. “These were all ridiculous thoughts three years ago.”
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been working with Schmidt and Arrow since 2015 to become the first state to enhance regulations allowing Schmidt to legally drive the SAM car on the state’s public roads under restricted conditions. After the lieutenant governor gave Schmidt his license, Schmidt demonstrated his driving skills on the speedway’s Exotic Racing track and nearby public roads as part of a fundraising event for Conquer Paralysis Now.
“Presenting Sam Schmidt with the first autonomous vehicle driver’s license marks a turning point in our state and reinforces how fortunate I am to serve the people of Nevada – a state that values technologies and innovations that strengthen and improve our communities,” said Lt. Gov. Hutchison. “I’m confident today’s events will serve as a catalyst for even more transforming technologies, which will enrich and enhance the lives of all Nevadans. I’d like to thank all of the dedicated individuals who had a part in making today a reality, and congratulate Sam on this milestone.”
3. Pagenaud guests on ‘The Star Wars Show’: “The Force” was definitely with Simon Pagenaud throughout the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season and the recently crowned champion showed it during the season finale at Sonoma Raceway – on and off the track.
Pagenaud won the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 18 to clinch his first title. During the race weekend, he was also interviewed by hosts Andi Gutierrez and Peter Townley for a Verizon-sponsored segment of “The Star Wars Show,” a regular YouTube program covering everything to do with the popular film franchise.
In addition to talking to Pagenaud, the hosts were tested to a high-speed version of “Star Wars” trivia, answering racing-related questions from the films while riding at speed in INDYCAR Experience two-seat Indy cars around the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway road circuit.
Watch the entire episode of “The Star Wars Show” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
4. Sonoma race weekend raises $151,000 for youth groups: Charitable programs combined to raise more than $151,000 for Sonoma County, Calif., youth groups during the Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend at Sonoma Raceway, Sept. 16-18.
Proceeds from the majority of events will benefit Sonoma County youth organizations through the Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC), the charitable arm of the raceway, which has distributed more than $5.1 million to local youth-serving non-profit groups since 2001.
SCC partnered with the Michael Andretti Foundation to host the IndyCar Grand Prix Salute at Andretti Winery in Napa on Sept. 16. Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti attended, along with the first generations of Andretti racing greats – Marco’s father Michael and grandfather Mario. The event that included a reception, dinner and silent and live auction raised more than $35,000 for SCC.
Levy Restaurants, the official caterer of Sonoma Raceway, had seven local non-profit groups work track concession stands over the race weekend to earn funds for their organizations totaling more than $110,000.
5. Still time to join Race to Beat Cancer: Racing For Cancer, the non-profit organization founded by Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay following his mother’s death from cancer in 2009, is still accepting reservations for its second annual Race to Beat Cancer racing instruction and competition event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., from Dec. 1-4.
Hunter-Reay and fellow Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe will assist Skip Barber Racing School coaches with participants’ instruction at the scenic 2.238-mile permanent road course. Four levels of participation are available for beginners and advanced drivers, ranging from a one-race program to a three-day race program that also includes a round of golf at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.
All participation levels include exclusive dinners and receptions in the Monterey area, hot laps in a Porsche 911 and reduced rates at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach. For more information or to reserve a spot, visit RacingForCancer.org.
6. St. Pete, Toronto race renewal tickets available: Renewal tickets for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Honda Indy Toronto are now available and include a Champions Club program that enhances the race weekend experiences.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit, will open the Verizon IndyCar Series season for the seventh straight year in 2017, with the race weekend running March 10-12. The Honda Indy Toronto, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year on the 1.786-mile street course, is set for July 14-16 and will be the 12th of 17 races on the 2017 schedule. Both events are operated by Green Savoree Racing Promotions.
The Champions Club program offers exclusive benefits at each event, including Verizon IndyCar Series paddock passes, access to the pre-race grid walk and an opportunity to win a ride in the INDYCAR Experience two-seater.
Renewal tickets for the St. Pete race are available to customers who purchased weekend grandstand tickets this year. Renewals for Toronto are available to those who purchased two-day reserved grandstand seats this year.
General public ticket sales start Nov. 8 for St. Petersburg and Nov. 29 for Toronto. For ticket pricing and event information, visit gpstpete.com, hondaindy.com/tickets or call (877) 725-8849 for either event.